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  • Brian Bender, PhD

51 Most Protein Rich Foods (Ranked by Protein Density)

Sorry to all the vegetarians. When it comes to the most protein rich foods, animal products top the list.

If you are looking protein rich vegetables, fruits, cheeses, breads, nuts, and beans, see our rankings for the top non meat sources of protein

The most protein rich foods are protein dense.

Protein density refers to the percentage of total calories derived from protein.

By comparing all of the foods from the USDA Food Database, we ranked the most protein rich foods from highest to lowest protein density.

The Most Protein Rich Foods, Ranked

Claiming an impressive 36 out of the top 51 slots, the seafood category overwhelmingly contains the most protein rich foods you can eat.

Eight of the slots go to various kinds of red meats, 6 go to poultry, and 1 goes to a vegetable.

Top Protein Rich Foods by Food Category

We bet the vegetable will surprise you…

Use the interactive chart below to see if your favorite falls on the list.

High Protein Foods for Weight Loss

Protein rich foods are often included in weight loss regimens.


Protein has two things going for it as a weight loss nutrient.

The first is protein’s relationship to something called thermogenesis.

Learn more about your body’s metabolism.

Protein requires more calories to burn for digestion than both fats and carbohydrates.

The second thing protein has going for it as a weight loss nutrient is related to satiety.

Protein is linked to higher feelings of satiety - the feeling of being full. There is still some debate as to why this is the case. Some have suggested the mdoulation of hormones like ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger.

Regardless, many swear by protein and its use in weight loss, especially when it is combined with another weight loss strategy - low fat dieting.

Fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient.

One gram of protein is roughly equivalent to 4 calories, while one gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories.

High Protein, Low Fat Foods

With this is mind, some foods can tackle this strategy all in one.

Some foods are both high in protein, and low in fat.

Ranked by the protein-to-fat ratio (higher meaning these are the most high protein, low fat foods), the following interactive chart shows that some vegetables, and even one fruit, crack their way into the top 51.

Bottom Line

Meats tend to be the most protein rich foods, but they also tend to possess all essential amino acids.

This is why meats are often referred to as complete proteins.

Eating a variety of foods, including vegetables, typically helps you meet your amino acid needs.


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